Most mapping is done from the ground level, but Apple is taking to the air. According to a report from Bloomberg, the Cupertino company will utilize drones to improve its Maps service.
According to the report, Apple is in the process of assembling a team of experts in the fields of robotics and data collection who will be tapped to lead the drone initiative. The group will use the unmanned aircrafts to capture landscape and road information from above.
Apple plans to use the drones to pick up additional details like street signs. The company will also use the hovering crafts to keep track of changes to streets and monitor stretches of road that are under construction.
The data collected by drones will be used to update the available information in the Apple Maps app. The process is said to be significantly faster for updated information than the company’s current fleet of vehicles, which are regularly sent around the country to capture road information via cameras and sensors.
Apple seems to have been planning on rolling out drones for this purpose for some time; it filed for an exemption with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in September 2015 to use drones for commercial purposes.
According to Bloomberg, the FAA granted approval to Apple on March 22 of this year. The approval gave Apple permission to operate unmanned aircraft for the purposes of data collection, photography and videography.
In addition to the adoption of drones, Apple will also start looking inside of buildings to provide more accurate mapping of popular destinations with high foot traffic.
For the project, Apple is tapping the team behind the startup Indoor.io, which the computing giant acquired last year. The technology behind Indoor.io uses pressure sensors, GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth—all features available in most smartphones—to track movement inside a confined area.
The data gleaned from the indoor tracking project could help Apple craft maps and directions for areas like airports and museums, with the hope of helping people find their gate or destination just like they would with standard car navigation.
The investment in new means of data collection could mark a major improvement for Apple Maps, which was widely panned when first released but has been built into a considerable competitor for Google Maps.